Freshman Gain Increasing Debt

By: Ryan Dearbone Email
By: Ryan Dearbone Email

The phrase, "The Freshman 15," means gaining 15 pounds your first year in college.

But now the phrase is taking on a new and more costly meaning.

Recent reports show college students are racking up more than $15,000 of debt before they can even buy alcohol.

And most of that debt is coming from credit cards.

We talked to one Western Kentucky University freshman whose debt is growing everyday.

Western Freshman Allison Sterbling says she's swimming in debt thanks to her credit card.

"I've had credit card debt since I got my card. I'm probably a couple thousand dollars in debt," she admitted.

Nationwide, college students like Sterbling are racking up debt at alarming rates.

"Business-Week" magazine says 75 percent of all college students are toting plastic, which is more than anytime in the past.

College freshman seem to be the biggest debt- incurrers.

Housing and Residence Life Associate Director Lynne Holland says most of these new students come to campus sporting debt.

"They're coming here with credit cards. They have revolving lines of credit attached to their particular credit accounts," Holland said.

She says once on campus, these students tend to spend with reckless abandon which balloons their problem.

"Many of them like to finance the same kind of lifestyle that they had when they were living at home under their parents' roof," Holland explained.

Take Sterbling for example.

"Because I really like to shop. When you're out at the mall and you see a purse that you want, you just want to buy it and that's what I do," Sterbling admitted.

If the student is jobless or makes little money, they can fall far into debt, forcing them to use creative ways to pay the rising bills.

"It's not unusual for me to have conversations with students who indicate they're using one credit card to pay the charges on another credit card," Holland said.

Sterbling has a love-hate relationship with her piece of plastic.

"I regret having it because everytime I don't have cash I just use my credit card," she said.

But she's not ready to cut it up her card just yet.

"Well, I'm concerned, but not that much concerned," Sterbling admitted.

Holland says during "Master Plan Week," Western officials put on a program called "Pocket Change."

It aims to teach incoming students how to avoid falling into "the debt minefield" by making good choices while in school.

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